TT: Tea and Yog(h)urt

Welcome to Thursday Tangents…  If you’re looking for Wednesday Wanderings, just page back and I’ll tell you how two ferrets nearly kept me from attending my first science fiction convention.  Meanwhile, Alan and I were chatting about yogurt.

ALAN: Last week you noted how surprised you were by the thick, creamy

Tea, Anyone?

consistency of yoghurt in New Zealand. I found this rather puzzling. I was also intrigued by the fact that we both had different spellings for the word – you say yogurt and I say yoghurt as the old song very nearly has it. So just what is American yogurt like?

JANE: Well, when I was growing up, yogurt had a strong “sour” note that I didn’t like at all.  Combined with a texture not as thick as custard (or what we would call “pudding”), which was too thin for me to find appealing, it was not on my list of favorite foods.  This would probably be in the late seventies or early eighties.  Even mixing in jam wasn’t enough.  I still didn’t like the flavor.

Now, before I go further, I should note that this “sour” note was not the same as what you find in what we call “sour cream.”  I like sour cream – a lot.  When my sister and I were young, in the summer, we’d sometimes walk to the country general store.  If we had enough pocket money, we’d splurge on a little container of ice cream.  However, a few times I got a container of sour cream instead and found it just as delightful.

So it wasn’t “sour” alone.  It was a particular sour that I didn’t like in yogurt.

Commercial yogurt manufacturers  now seem to have eliminated a lot of this sourness and to be adding something to thicken the consistency.  In the last year or so, variations on yogurt – particularly Greek-style, which is marketed as having “twice the protein” of ordinary yogurt – are becoming more widely available.  I’ve tried most of these, but none of them have lived up to my memories of that glorious New Zealand yogurt some sixteen years ago.

ALAN: Obviously the extra “h” adds to the texture. My cooking tends towards the low fat end of the spectrum and when recipes call for cream I always substitute low fat (“weight watchers”) yoghurt. It works very well – even the very low fat yoghurts (less than 1% fat) are still thick, creamy and tasty.

Now, before I forget, there remains the fact, as I said last week, that you simply can’t have Tea without tea.

JANE: That’s absolutely true.  For Bubonicon’s Author’s Tea, the teas are donated by the St. James Tea Room, a lovely establishment here in Albuquerque.  I’ve been informed by those who have reason to know that St. James serves a credible English High Tea.  I certainly have enjoyed my visits there

For the Author’s Tea, Pati Nagle usually arranges for four different teas of varying types: one traditional black tea, one scented tea (black or green, usually), a green or white tea (sometimes scented),  and an herbal tea or tisane.

Is such a variety typical if you’re just having tea with Tea at home?

ALAN: These days yes, it certainly is. I’ve got half a dozen different kinds of tea in my cupboard and the supermarket shelves are positively packed with all manner of different teas and infusions. There’s even a specialist shop in central Wellington which sells nothing but tea and there, of course, the range is just mind-bogglingly huge.

A couple of months ago Robin and I went to a presentation about tea. It was given by a man from Dilmah (a tea exporter based in Sri Lanka — they have a huge presence in New Zealand and their teas are very popular here). It cost us $10 each to get in and we each left with about $30 worth of free samples that we are still drinking our way through, so I think we got a bargain.

It wasn’t always so. When I was a child in England, there was only one kind of tea. There were quite a lot of different tea companies: Typhoo, P. G. Tips, and (my mother’s preferred brand) Hornimans. But they were all interchangeable. Tea then was a strong, brown drink served with milk and sugar and drunk almost non-stop throughout the day. I had read about tea being served with lemon but I’d never seen anyone drink it that way. I once asked my mother about it.

“Oh no,” she said quite firmly. “That would never work. The lemon would curdle the milk.”

JANE: Just as an aside, are you aware that the autobiography of the physicist Richard Feynman is titled Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman because when he was in college and invited to his first formal reception he was asked if he wanted milk or lemon.  Nervously, he responded “both” and the woman hosting the event said dryly, “Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman.”  This stung so much that he never really recovered, but with typical humor turned it around and made use of it.

ALAN: I’ve certainly read the book, but it was many years ago and I’d forgotten that particular incident. How nice to know that I have something in common with him – he’s one of my heroes.

These days both Robin and I drink our tea without any milk or sugar at all. However I must admit that we are regarded as a little odd. Most people that I know still prepare their tea in the traditional way.

How do Americans drink their tea?

JANE: Well, as I’ve noted elsewhere (see the Wednesday Wandering for 6-08-11, “Black Coffee”), I’m mostly a coffee drinker.  When I drink tea, I also tend to drink it black.  One of the delights of working on the Author’s Tea has been that I’ve learned certain teas are enhanced by just a touch of cream or a little sugar.

Based on observation, I’d say there’s no dominant choice here.

However, although when it comes to hot drinks I’ll choose coffee over tea, I do enjoy iced tea.  When I make it, I brew the tea (it’s brewed hot, then allowed to cool) with lots and lots of mint from my garden.  This makes a very refreshing hot weather drink.

Touching on regionalisms, again, for many years you could tell how far south you were by whether you were asked if you wanted sweetened or unsweetened cold tea.  At extremes you wouldn’t be asked at all.  In the north, cold (or iced) tea would arrive unsweetened and you would add your own sugar.  In the south, it was the reverse.  For a someone like me who prefers unsweet drinks, this was a shock and I quickly learned to ask for unsweetened tea.

ALAN: I’m with you on this. I really dislike sweet drinks; they taste quite horrible.

JANE: Has iced tea caught on in New Zealand – or England for that matter?

ALAN: No, not at all — iced tea is a barbarism. I have noticed bottles and cans of iced tea sitting in the soft drink section of the supermarket. However I’ve never seen anybody except visiting Americans drink it. And nobody would ever dream of making iced tea from scratch at home.

JANE: All this talk about sweetening reminds me.  I need to ask you about some of the odd sweeteners I’ve encountered in my British cookbooks.  Maybe next week…

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6 Responses to “TT: Tea and Yog(h)urt”

  1. Maria Says:

    This blog post cracked me up! I know exactly what you mean about tea. I drink both coffee and tea equally. I like to add both cream and sugar to my coffee (a lot of sugar) but cannot STAND sweet iced tea. Living in Texas, people make all sorts of faces when I order tea at a restaurant.

    I’ve never really had hot teas until recently (the past year or so) and I just cannot bring myself to add anything to them. Am I missing something delightful by not adding other ingredients to my teas? Maybe I should start experimenting a bit more. I’ll just need to have an empty cup on hand incase I need to spit it out, lol.

    • janelindskold Says:

      Texas and New Mexico aren’t that far apart… Maybe you can make an Author’s Tea one year.

      Pati (who organizes it) always coaches the pourers as to whether a certain tea is improved by cream or sugar so we can advise.

  2. heteromeles Says:

    Fun posting! I think you can make Greek yog(h)urt by letting regular yogurt drain in a cheese-cloth for a while. We have a yogurt maker that we use every week, and it’s already paid for itself many times over..

    As for beverages, fortunately you didn’t veer into the travesty of the arnold palmer (half iced tea, half lemonade, often horribly over-sweetened).

    Another beverage from grad school: coyote coffee. That’s the cold stuff from the coffee-maker, sometimes drunk by grad students up to 24 hours (or longer) after it was first made. The trick is to get good, medium-roasted coffee (preferably mocha-java, or at least java), and turn the machine off as soon as it’s done making the coffee. That way the machine doesn’t cook the coffee into oily bitterness, and it will last for hours. In my lab, we came to prefer that to hot coffee, especially in the summer. Needless to say, don’t try this with any coffee that’s heavily roasted, oily, cheap, or instant. Even coyotes have some standards.

  3. CBI Says:

    When in the navy, I had a reputation as the hot tea drinker on the boat: hot tea, one sweet-and-low, and a little bit of cream. I still drink many black teas that way; at church it’s usually with Splenda and half-and-half.

    OTOH, I like both tea and coffee most any way — including the cold-tea-and-lemonade mix. Sadly enough, I’m told to avoid caffeinated coffee (migraines), which I surely do miss. OTOH, Satellite (a local coffee shop chain) does a good job with their caffeine-free iced coffee.

    While I drink tea both ways, I love the taste of Texas sweet iced tea. Nowadays I don’t use the sugar, due to my excess avoirdupois, but . . . it is truly a treat!

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